Date:..............February 22, 2003 Destination:.......Chloride, Arizona Duration:.........Day trip Departure Point:..Westwood Studios Weather:..........clear & cool Adventurers:......9 (Joe, Mike, Steve, Anne, Dave, Ted, Chris, Greg, Dwight) Vehicles:.........3
The end of an era was at hand. Westwood Studios was being relocated to Los Angeles. As a last hurrah to Westwood and before we moved out of town, we gathered our miniQuesting vehicles and headed into the desert. Ted was in charge of navigation this trip so we weren't exactly sure where we would end up. Fortunately, it turned out we visited very interesting places and returned safely!
Ted zips off toward the southeast from Westwood. Since he is the navigator, we quickly follow. After a brief chat on the radio, it becomes clear that we have not actually started the trip yet. Ted has to go home to switch vehicles and pick up more passengers. We decide to rendezvous at the Hacienda Hotel formerly known as the Gold Strike (the hotel right by Hoover Dam). After much loitering, Ted finally arrives and brings Chris as an additional guest!
There was a large construction site across the street from the Hacienda. It was unclear what was being constructed, but note to self: check back on this later.
Apparently we weren't the first ones to loiter here. The gas station had a "no urinating here" sign out back by the electric generator. There must have been a "tragic accident" that necessitated this notice. I shudder to think about it.
Now that we had all gathered, it was time to start the trip. The first landmark to pass (over) was Hoover Dam. However, prior to reaching the dam, we had to pass through a security checkpoint. They waved us through the checkpoint. We must have looked innocent enough.
Even without the security checkpoint, crossing Hoover Dam can be slow due to the narrow road, pedestrian traffic, and "rubber-necking".
In less trying times, Hoover Dam would be a miniQuest destination in itself. Unfortunately, security precautions have eliminated the tours and closed off much of the interesting areas to explore. There was a museum that was still open to the public, but for the most part, the visitors are restricted to the areas near the road.
Dolan Springs Area
Once past the dam, we headed southeast on US93. The first stop was to the Cyclops Mine, but we were foiled. [Mike's comments] The road was blocked. Not to worry, there must be other interesting things in the area.
Just a short distance up the road, we discover a large concrete lined pit. I would guess it used to hold water for the town of Dolan Springs (which was nearby).
Dolan Springs is a small unincorporated community consisting of mostly prefabricated homes and a few businesses such as a general store and a bar.
Now that we were walking around it became apparent that the desert was actually covered with a thin layer of green grass. This was in addition to the abundant Joshua trees and desert scrub.
Although we didn't see any bighorn sheep, but we did discover their tracks!
However, shortly after passing through a gate that Greg opened for us, we discovered a herd of cattle. There were about 30 of them. A few had small horns, but otherwise they appeared to be young.
The herd was spread out and some were blocking the road. Slowly inching forward was enough to convince them to clear the way. You didn't think we would get out of the car and shoo them away did you? C'mon, some of those horns were like nearly 2 inches long!
After that harrowing encounter, we proceeded down the dirt road and came to the crest of a hill between two valleys.
About this point in the trip we pass through Dolan Springs. I'll have to tell you, there really wasn't much there. Most buildings appeared pre-fabricated or were mobile homes. A few buildings looked like they might have been built on the spot, but they were the exception.
Silver chloride mining operation (abandoned)
Chloride (the mine)
The next stop was at a large mine. It was quite noticeable due to the large field of tailings. To understand what tailings are like, imagine 100 bazillion gallons of mud was dumped onto the desert and allowed to dry -- that is what tailings are like.
This mine also had a big wood thingie with chutes and mechanisms, several foundations for houses, a rock crusher, and a reinforced dynamite cabin.
Chemistry Lesson: Silver Chloride - chemical compound, AgCl, a white cubic crystalline solid. It is nearly insoluble in water but is soluble in a water solution of ammonia, potassium cyanide, or sodium thiosulfate ( "hypo" ). On exposure to light it becomes a deep grayish blue due to its decomposition into metallic silver and atomic chlorine. This light-sensitive behavior is the basis of photographic processes. Since silver bromide, AgBr, and silver iodide, AgI, react similarly, all three of these silver halide salts are used in making photographic films and plates. Both the bromide and iodide are less soluble in water and more sensitive to light than the chloride.
Besides use in photography, silver chloride is used in silver plating, and silver iodide is used for seeding clouds. The chloride, bromide, and iodide occur naturally as the minerals cerargyrite, bromyrite, and iodyrite, respectively.
For the most part, the there was very little life encroaching on the field of tailings except for ants and patches of lichen.
It was here that the decision to bury a geocache was made. Ted and Chris head off to stash the cache while the rest of us go exploring. Soon we discovered a geocache of-sorts left by the previous residents -- a field of rusty cans. No trips is complete without the discovery of a field of rusty cans. We've had previous experience with this.
All that is left of an abandoned Silver Chloride mine
Chloride (the town)
The next stop was the town of Chloride. This is a quaint community with roots that stretch back to the mid 19th century. The display artwork and crafts were everywhere.
History Lesson: Chloride was founded in 1862 with the discovery of silver ore. The name comes from the type of silver ore (silver chloride, a.k.a. cerargyrite) mined there. It was once home to more than 75 mines and 2,000 people. The town has seen stage coaches and trains and still maintains the oldest continuously operating post office in Arizona. The town as been in decline since 1920 and is down to 397 residents but maintains a strong character that mixes the past with a unique and creative individualism visible in from the front yards to the canyon walls.
The crafts were on display alongside mining equipment, old "signs", and other bric-a-brac. We stopped at the Chloride visitor center and perused the historical pictures and other paraphernalia.
Just outside of the town of Chloride is the Chloride cemetery. It has old and recent graves. The cemetery is still "active".
The graves within ranged from very old to recent. The oldest graves have had their headstones removed (either stolen or were made of wood and have long since decayed). The oldest marked grave found was from 1906.
Petroglyphs and Pictographs
Petroglyphs and pictographs were also located just outside of Chloride. However, unlike the road to the cemetery, the road we had to travel was very primitive. The trip was worth it -- the rock art was spectacular.
Some of the rock art predates Chloride, but others, such as the colorful murals were created by Roy Purcell in 1966. Roy was a prospector with time on his hands, so he painted some intriguing scenes on the face of the boulders in the area. The Murals have held up well during the past 30 years, and the colors remain vibrant.
The sun was setting and we were getting chilly in the shade, so off we went -- back to Las Vegas.